Yesterday, a huge fire broke out at the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro. Those of you who participated in the ICOM-UMAC 2013 in Rio may remember the Museum’s beautiful building, situated in the middle of a city park.
The Museu Nacional is a university museum, part of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. It is the oldest museum in Brazil, created in 1818. It hosts one of the largest scientific collections in the world, comprising c. 20 million specimens and artefacts of natural history, anthropology, archaeology, as well as historical archives and libraries.
At this point, the full extent of the destruction remains unknown and so does the cause of the fire. Fortunately, there were no victims. UMAC hopes at least part of the collections have been saved.
There is certainly a need for a full investigation, debate and answers, but for now, this is already one of the largest catastrophes in museum history anywhere in the world. It is most important to recognize the significance of this enormous tragedy and irreplaceable loss for science, education and culture, in Brazil and the world, and to demonstrate solidarity and support to our colleagues at the Museu Nacional.
Presently, UMAC is exploring possibilities of expressing our support in more tangible ways. Meanwhile, we are compiling all supporting messages arriving from all over the world. In due time, we will forward them to the Director of Museu Nacional and to the administration of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
Marta C. Lourenço, University of Lisbon
Lisbon 3 September 2018
See also ICOM Statement (3 September 2018) on this tragedy.